Fertility loss is a likely side effect of cancer and cancer treatment in both men and women. Fertility can be impaired temporarily or permanently depending on the type of cancer and treatment methods used, as well as the age and other factors. To assess the probability of this occurring and the potential repercussions, consult with your oncologist and fertility specialist.
For women, causes include:
- Chemotherapy can harm eggs in a number of ways.
- Radiation damages the ovaries.
- Removal of the ovaries and uterus by oophorectomy and hysterectomy
- Hormonal treatments
You will still be able to conceive if you have a uterus and ovaries. To prevent fertilization of damaged eggs, some medical professionals recommend waiting 6 months before attempting again. A doctor who specializes in high-risk obstetrics will check to see if your ovaries are still working and if your heart and lungs are capable of withstanding pregnancy. If you were unable to freeze embryos (cryopreservation) prior to starting cancer treatment but still have your uterus, you may want to explore the following options:
- Having donor eggs implanted via IVF (in-vitro fertilization)
- Having a donor embryo implanted via IVF
For men, infertility may be caused by:
- Damage to sperm cells caused by chemotherapy
- Damage to sperm cells caused by radiation
- Surgery to remove your testicles or prostate
- Hormonal therapies
Some men recover their ability to produce sperm after receiving cancer treatment (maybe a year or later). If you did not freeze your sperm prior to treatment but are still able to produce sperm, you can consider the following options:
- Having your sperm examined to see the percentage of DNA damage there is in your sperm
LIVESTRONG offers information on fertility choices to help you make an educated decision based on your unique needs. You may also get assistance with the economic, realistic, and legal aspects of infertility.